NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. The unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom—and almost got away with it
In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye.
It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new Web site where anyone—not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers—could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.
The Silk Road quickly ballooned into $1.2 billion enterprise, and Ross embraced his new role as kingpin. He enlisted a loyal crew of allies in high and low places, all as addicted to the danger and thrill of running an illegal marketplace as their customers were to the heroin they sold. Through his network he got wind of the target on his back and took drastic steps to protect himself—including ordering a hit on a former employee. As Ross made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren’t sure even existed, searching for a needle in the haystack of the global Internet.
Drawing on exclusive access to key players and two billion digital words and images Ross left behind, Vanity Fair correspondent and New York Times bestselling author Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It’s a story of the boy next door’s ambition gone criminal, spurred on by the clash between the new world of libertarian-leaning, anonymous, decentralized Web advocates and the old world of government control, order, and the rule of law. Filled with unforgettable characters and capped by an astonishing climax, American Kingpin might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction. But it’s all too real.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Nick Bilton is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, where he writes about technology, business, and culture, and a contributor at CNBC. He was a columnist for The New York Times for almost a decade. His most recent book, Hatching Twitter, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and dog, Pixel.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "American Kingpin"
Copyright © 2018 Nick Bilton.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xiii
Cast of Characters xv
1 The Pink Pill 3
2 Ross Ulbricht 13
3 Julia Vie 17
4 The Debate 21
5 Jared's Khat 24
6 The Bonfire 28
7 The Silk Road 33
8 Ross the Farmer 37
9 Opening Day of the Silk Road 42
10 What Goes Up Must Come Down 47
11 The Gawker Article 50
12 A Bull's-eye on My Back 54
13 Julia Tells Erica 58
14 What Have You Done?! 62
15 Jared and the Fifty-Ton Flamingo 65
16 From Austin to Australia 69
17 Carl Force's Tomorrow 75
18 Variety Jones and the Serpent 78
19 Jared Goes Shopping 83
20 The Dread Pirate Roberts 86
21 Carl Force Is Born Again 90
22 "O Captain, My Captain" 92
23 Ross, Hanged or Home 95
24 Carl, Eladio, and Nob 100
25 Jared's Chicago Versus Carl's Baltimore 103
26 The Mutiny 107
27 A Billion Dollars?! 112
28 The Aspiring Billionaire in Costa Rica 115
29 Variety Jones Goes to Scotland 119
30 The Armory Opens 123
31 Ross Silences Julia 127
32 Chris Tarhell, FBI 133
33 Ross Arrives in San Francisco 137
34 Chris in the Pit 142
35 Batten Down the Hatches! 145
36 Jared's Dead Ends 150
37 A Pirate in Dominica 153
38 Carl Likes DPR 159
39 Kidney for Sale! 165
40 The White House in Utah 171
41 Curtis Is Tortured 176
42 The First Murder 180
43 The FBI Joins the Hunt 184
44 Camping and the Ball 187
45 Gary Alford, IRS 195
46 Life and Death on the Road 199
47 Gary's Big Change 203
48 Ross Goes Underground 207
49 Carl Switches Teams 213
50 A Parking Ticket on the Internet 217
51 Tarbell Finds a Mistake 221
52 The Fake IDs, Part One 225
53 The Deconfliction Meeting 231
54 Jared Becomes Cirrus 237
55 Julia Is Saved! Hallelujah! 242
56 The Fake IDs, Part Two 245
57 Onward to Federal Plaza 249
58 Julia Comes to San Francisco 254
59 I Am God 258
60 The Phone Call 262
61 The Good-bye Party 269
62 The Pink Sunset 275
63 Carla Sophia 279
64 FeLiNa 282
65 Arrested 290
66 The Laptop 293
67 Ross Locked Up 296
68 United States of America v. Ross William Ulbricht 300
69 To Catch a Pirate 304
70 Sentencing 307
71 The Plural of Mongoose 310
72 The Museum 313
73 The Others 316
Notes on Reporting 323
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Most of us, thank goodness, have no clue what the "Darknet" really is or the myriad of ways it has impacted society. For me the fact that "The Silk Road" ever existed or that millions of people made purchases there is mind-boggling. I found the whole story completely riveting.
I loved this book. Once I started reading I couldnt put it down.
American kingpin, is a fantastic book. I watched Casey Neistat talk about the book in one of his vlogs and thought I’d give it a try. I am not an avid reader, however I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It goes into the details of the story, without dragging it on. It is about a young man, low 20’s (I forget the exact age). Who wants to spread his liberal ideas. He does this by opening a drug selling website on the dark web, called The Silk Road. This book is based of of a true story. So everything that the author says in the book, actually happened. The main character’s (Ross Ulbricht) story is told from the start of him thinking of how to keep everything off paper, and untraceable. Somehow the author does an excellent job, of making you want him to win, even though he is a criminal. It’s a different type of crim, so you almost feel bad for him. This book also goes into his past, and why he thinks, and acts the way he does. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to hear a really good story that actually happened. If you want another opinion, go watch casey neistat's video titled Selling drugs On The Internet, this is obviously in reference to Ross.
Friend told me to read it and I was skeptical because these kinds of books aren’t my thing but I was hooked. Had never even heard of this before!
A good reminder that every time you go on the internet you are leaving fingerprints behind. Kudos to those who worked so hard to capture Ulbricht.
We listened to this one on a road trip and were enthralled and rapt from start to finish. You'll find yourself torn between right and wrong, examining what motivates people on both sides of the thin blue line, and awaiting each chapter! Well organized, researched, and written-- a must read.